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The Facts on Fluoride

The Facts on Fluoride

More often than not, when you visit your dentist for a cleaning, you’ll hear the word ‘fluoride’. But do you really know what that means? Fluoride is found in a number of places and benefits your oral health and tooth enamel.

Fluoride toothpaste

Let's start with the big question, what is fluoride?

Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay as it makes strengthens the surface of the teeth, called enamel. It can prevent or stop tooth decay. Fluoride is a mineral that can be found in soil, various foods, and both fresh and saltwater. Fluoride is naturally found in many water sources. It is also added to most public tap water in Canada. The most common topic paired with fluoride is dental health. Fluoride is in most toothpastes and oral rinses.

Forms of fluoride at the dentist

During your visit, your dentist can provide you with professional products containing fluoride including varnishes, foams, and gels. Here at Stony Plain Dental Centre, we have all two forms, varnish and silver diamine fluoride (SDF).

The varnish is what is used in a standard dental hygiene visit. The Registered Dental Hygienist paints the fluoride on your teeth. It is a relatively quick treatment and is completely painless. The fluoride varnish we have is popular because there is no required wait time after it is applied to eat or drink. Most other forms of fluoride used at the dentist has required a wait time in the past.

SDF is a type of fluoride that provides temporary solution to assist individuals with cavities. It is applied directly to the tooth decay and acts immediately to slow the rate of decay. The application turns the decay black. SDF may require a few applications after the initial treatment to ensure it is still preventing the cavity to grow. This treatment can be used on both children and adults. It is commonly used to treat decay on young children who have a cavity on a primary (baby) tooth that will fall out in coming years. Adults may elect this as a low cost fix, however this is a temporary fix and depending on the decay may not be advised. Keep in mind that the decay turns black, so it is also not advised for teeth that are visible while smiling and or speaking. If you have any questions about silver diamine fluoride, call us at 780-963-4626.

Is fluoride bad for you?

There is a common misconception that fluoride is bad for you when in reality, it is very beneficial alongside proper oral care. Ingesting too much fluoride is never recommended as it can cause an upset stomach. In childhood, too much fluoride ingested can cause dental fluorosis, however, dental fluorosis is not a hazard to your health. Children's toothpaste contains limited quantities of fluoride to avoid dental fluorosis. Dental fluorosis appears as small white specks on teeth in its most common form, in its mild form, it often goes unnoticed by children and parents. Other than dental fluorosis, there have been no known negative side effects to using fluoride. When using any dental product always read and follow directions.

If you are unsure if you or your child is receiving optimal amounts of fluoride, check with your dentist.

Is fluoride free?

Fluoride occurs naturally in some forms and is naturally found in most water sources. Additional fluoride is also added to most public water in Canada. Additional fluoride treatments are not free but can be purchased with fluoridated toothpaste and rinses for a low cost as mentioned earlier. When receiving fluoride treatments from your dentist, your insurance may cover all or part of the cost. Depending on your insurance, it typically covers one standard fluoride treatment per year. Check with your insurance provider if you have questions about your plan coverage for fluoride.

Why should I pay for fluoride treatments?

If you are at risk of tooth decay, fluoride treatments are strongly recommended. Poor oral hygiene at home and high sugar intake can increase your risk for tooth decay which can increase the number of fluoride treatments you may require. Proper oral hygiene at home, routine visits to your dentist, and multiple fluoride treatments within a year can dramatically increase your oral health. Talk to your dentist or hygienist to see how many fluoride treatments a year you require.

Should I use fluoridated toothpaste?

Along with regular care by your dentist, fluoridated toothpaste and rinses help prevent tooth decay and should be used. Using fluoridated toothpaste for children three and under is only necessary if they are at risk of developing tooth decay which can be determined by your dentist. If your child is at risk and the use of fluoridated toothpaste is recommended, a small portion, the size of a grain of rice should be used. This prevents them from using and swallowing too much toothpaste which could put them at risk of dental fluorosis. If fluoridated toothpaste isn’t recommended, their teeth should be brushed using a toothbrush and damp water. Ensure an adult brushes their teeth for them, with or without the use of fluoridated toothpaste.

Children three to six should use a small portion, the size of a pea, and should be assisted or supervised. Rinses that contain fluoride should not be used on children under six.

Adults are recommended to use fluoridated toothpaste to prevent tooth decay.

To learn more about fluoride, watch the video below. For further tips on proper care of children's teeth, refer to our blog called Children and the Dentist.


Dr. Zahra Gangji

General Dentist and Owner of Stony Plain Dental Centre

Canadian Dental Association


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